The Hunter Who Became A Deer
Category: CHOCTAW STORIES
Source: Indian Legends Retold
A hunter who had traveled all day without finding any game shot a doe
near sunset, and as he was very tired, he lay down near the body and
went to sleep.
In the morning, when he awoke, he perceived the doe looking at him
lovingly out of large, soft eyes. As he returned her gaze, she
astonished him yet more by speaking.
"Will you come home with me?" she pleaded.
The young man hesitated, but there was something strangely appealing
about this beautiful woman, as she now seemed to him to become. Almost
without knowing what he did, he arose and followed her.
By and by, they came to a great cave under the mountain, where it
seemed that all the Deer lived with their chief, an immense buck with
powerful antlers. The hunter was hospitably received; but all along
the sides of the cave he noticed piles of deer hides, with hoofs and
horns. This puzzled him not a little; nevertheless he ate with them,
lay down among them, and presently slept.
Now while the young man slept, the Deer tried skin after skin till
they found one which fitted him, and they also fitted a pair of
antlers to his head and hoofs to his hands and feet. In the morning,
he opened his eyes and perceived that he also was a Deer, and he
remained with the herd.
In the meantime, his mother and his relatives continued to search for
him throughout the forest. After some weeks, they discovered the lost
one's bow and arrows, hanging on the branch of the tree under which he
had slept after shooting the doe. They all gathered on the spot and
began to sing songs of magic.
Soon a herd of deer appeared in the distance, coming nearer and nearer
as they were drawn by the singing. At last one spoke, and immediately
they knew his voice for that of the missing hunter. His mother cried
bitterly, and insisted that they should take off the deer's hide from
her son and restore him to his own shape again.
"We dare not," protested his brothers and his cousins. "It might
endanger his life!"
"Even so," she replied, weeping, "I had rather see my son dead than
wearing the form of a beast!"
When they began to tear off the deer's hide, behold! it had grown fast
to his own skin, and he began to bleed.
"Go on! go on!" exclaimed the mother in agony, and they persisted
until the man died. Then at last they carried home his body and gave
it honorable burial.
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